Monday, November 25, 2013

Guest Post by Volunteer, Soyoon Choo

"Sports, Fun, and Games!"

I love all twelve themes of the reading clubs, but November’s College Spirit Month is in my Top 3 favorites. Could there be a better way to plant the seeds of college interest and introduce students to diverse schools beyond high school? As Reading to Kids volunteers, we are the kids’ ambassadors to a bigger world outside the boundaries of their family and schools. It’s also a fun opportunity for volunteers to dust their school gear out of the closet and wear it with pride – as for myself; I have more school spirit on this day than on any USC football game!

Volunteers show off their college gear.
At Los Angeles Elementary School where I regularly volunteer, besides the usual California schools there were many volunteers representing colleges outside the west coast. My reading partner was a college student who was also a Los Angeles Elementary alumnus!

The first grade book and craft supplies.
As usual, we had a bundle of crafty joy ready for our first graders, thanks to our amazing GLCs (Grade Level Coordinators). We also had Autumn & Thanksgiving themed stickers, which were perfect for our post-reading craft time, during which the kids made colorful hand-Turkeys and drew their own Thanksgiving dinner table.

The best part of the day for me was when a student who has been long attending the reading clubs encouraged a first timer to come out to next month’s club. I’ve met several shy kids and it is amazing to see the change and growth every month: watching them begin to use “big words”, become actively engaged in the book and our discussions, and watching as they become Reading to Kids’ own little ambassadors to their peers. At every reading club, I further discover how meaningful the reading clubs are to me and to the kids, and how volunteering is contributing to a greater cause.

Soyoon Choo proudly shows off her certificate for volunteering 10 times!
This month was particularly meaningful for me, as I received my Outstanding Volunteer – Ten Saturday Mornings certificate! It is hanging proudly on my fridge and reminds me how much I love to be part of this amazing community. With Thanksgiving around the corner, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Reading to Kids for not only enriching the kids, but also my life as well. Here’s to ten plus more amazing Saturdays to come!

-Soyoon Choo, Volunteer and Special Events Committee Co-Chair

If you are interested in sharing your experience with Reading to Kids on our blog please email us at

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Guest Post by Volunteer, Nicole DiCiccio

Being relatively new to Los Angeles, it had been recommended to me that I join to find others in my area with similar interests. I did just that, and am so glad I did, as it has led me to this amazing organization, Reading to Kids!

I was a bit nervous and unsure of what to expect prior to my first adventure at Alta Loma Elementary. Upon arrival, I found myself pleasantly surprised by the number of fellow volunteers, enthusiasm, positive vibes, and organization. Check-in was a breeze, and there were even some yummy bagels to help settle any nerves. The new volunteer orientation provided all of the necessary info and answered every question. I was feeling confident before I even saw a child!
At our November Reading Club we gave away college spirit items, like these cute UCLA Bears!
The third grade was a personal favorite of mine, as it was the year I was finally in the same class as my best friend, got my first puppy, and started writing short stories. Needless to say, I was pretty pleased when I discovered that I had been assigned to read to third graders at Alta Loma. I had purposely not specified a grade when registering, as I wanted to be flexible and available wherever the need was greatest, but I took this pairing as a sign that it was exactly where I was meant to be. Our third grade coordinator matched readers and we introduced ourselves to our partners. He also provided guidelines about what to discuss with the kids when reading our book, and ideas for our arts and crafts time.
Minutes later, we were outside with more than a hundred kids who were shrieking with excitement. My reading partner, Ed, and I marched our kids into the assigned class room and settled right in. We took turns reading our book, which was not a typical story by any means. It was called The Math Curse, and was full of more math problems than narrative. Not a math whiz myself, I feared the kids would lose interest quickly. They proved me wrong, remaining engaged and eager to solve the math curse with every page we turned.
Crafts from our November Reading Club
At the conclusion of the story, our happy little group set out to make our own clocks out of paper plates, crayons, and construction paper. The kids loved it, got super creative, and it provided us with a nice time to chat as we worked. Ed and I got educated about the typical life of a third grader, learning everything from what time they wake up in the morning, to what their favorite school lunch is, to recent movies they had seen. But the best part was the genuine excitement that poured out from each child when they collected their own book to take home and add to their collection - they all truly love reading.
Thinking back on my Saturday morning at Alta Loma, I can't imagine a better first experience for a newcomer. I have already recommended this program to friends of mine. and I cannot wait to get back and read with this great group of kids. It may just be possible that I had more fun than they did- it really was my favorite Saturday morning in Los Angeles!
 -Nicole DiCiccio, Volunteer

If you are interested in sharing your experience with Reading to Kids on our blog please email us at

Monday, October 21, 2013

Guest Post by Volunteer, Wendy Baker

Gratts Elementary x 2
Or, My Second Time Reading at Gratts Elementary School

I couldn’t wait to read A Tale Dark and Grimm, by Adam Gidwitz —the book designated to be read to the 4th graders on October 12. Sometime during the week I’d fallen under its spell, devouring it in bed each night, and I was dying to read it to the kids. 

You see, it’s a prequel and sequel to the Grimm brothers’ tale of “Hansel and Gretel,” and it’s written in the same shockingly horrid style of the Grimm brothers with running commentary from the author that is both psychologically astute and cynically adolescent—something that I knew the kids would love as they got deeper and deeper into the story.

Now I know what you’re thinking: “Really? Psychologically astute comments from the author about the story and the kids love it?” But you’ve got to trust me.

Abel, one of my co-readers that day, read the author’s comments while my other co-reader Andy and I split up reading the story. None of us had worked together before, but judging from the rapport that Abel had with the kids, I knew he’d do a great job. That proved to be an understatement; what a natural! Abel didn’t even sound like he was reading but just sharing his thoughts with the kids. They loved it.

The three of us volunteers had a large group of 15 kids, and many of them had never heard of “Hansel and Gretel,” but it didn’t matter. A good story is a good story.  When we came to difficult words, we’d stop and ask the kids what they thought the word meant in the context that it was being used, and I was surprised at how close they came to the definition. We’d also ask them what they thought was going to happen next—a strategy that elicited wild and crazy responses, mainly from the boys. By the time we finished Chapter 1, the kids were clamoring for more.

A volunteer's craft sample at the October 12th Reading Club.

Then it was time for arts and crafts. Fourth-grade Grade Level Coordinator Claudina Soriano had brought foam Halloween cutouts—some already glittered—with adhesive on the back (no need for those pesky glue sticks that always go missing), which were a big hit. The kids made ghostly, ghastly, and other worldly pictures, each one as unique as they are. When the announcement came that it was time for Raul the magician (back in the auditorium), the kids had had such a good time that they were all like little soldiers about cleaning and straightening up. Then they lined up at the door and we passed out The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan to each one of them (their “gift book”).

A few of the kids asked me how many chapters were in The Red Pyramid, which gave me the chance to show them how they could find that out for themselves by looking in the Table of Contents. The fact that The Red Pyramid had forty chapters seemed quite daunting to the kids, so I asked one little girl how many chapters she was used to reading. “Twelve” was her answer. “Just think how good you’ll feel when you can read forty,” I said, her eyes grew wide and sparkled with excitement.
-Wendy Baker, Volunteer

If you are interested in sharing your experience with Reading to Kids on our blog please email us at

Friday, February 15, 2013

Ken Goldstein


As many of you already know, our reading clubs aren’t just rewarding for the students, but for our volunteers as well. This month volunteer Ken Goldstein had such a wonderful time working with the students at Magnolia Elementary that he wrote a moving entry for his blog Corporate Intelligence Radio. You can read the entirety of his post  here, but I wanted to share the following excerpt with you:

These kids were amazing.  They have all the potential in the world.  They are ready to dream and learn and help each other and work hard.  As we drove home and I looked around at parts of Los Angeles where many of us don’t spend enough time, I wondered, where will these kids be in five years when they hit middle school?  In ten years when they are in high school?  Will they go to college?  Will they have the kinds of opportunities that will let their dreams come true?  I couldn’t know, but that’s what I wanted to happen.

Ken’s piece serves as a great reminder that our volunteers’ service goes beyond a single Saturday morning. When you read with a child you're making an important investment in his or her future success--that's why we believe that inspiring a love of reading now is so very important.  I thank Ken for sharing his thought-provoking piece with us!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Happy 2013, Volunteers!
Thank you for making our first reading clubs of 2013 a success! We know that many students and volunteers alike were battling flu and some unusually cold Los Angeles weather, but our January 12th Reading Clubs sailed smoothly onward! 
With Martin Luther King, Jr. Day just around the corner, we also want to acknowledge our volunteers’ continued support of equality in education. Dr. King's message inspires our own work in underserved communities, and we can't accomplish our mission without our volunteers. 

This month, 793 kids, 380 volunteers, 113 parents, and 26 teachers & staff joined us for an afternoon of Discovery and Adventure. Together we experienced the joy of a child’s first snowfall, tamed pesky varmints with the likes of Pecos Bill, and journeyed through the Great Lakes! You helped bring these stories to life for the kids, as did your ingenious craft creations (cowboy hats, log cabins, and lassos were plentiful)! 
On Saturday we also gave away prize computers to 7 lucky students. Thanks to your generous donations of laptops, computer towers, keyboards, mice, and monitors, we were able to give the kids the wonderful gift of technology. These 7 lucky students were thrilled to receive their prize computers, and the smiles on their faces were unforgettable. 

Our February 9th Reading Clubs are almost here, and we’ve got a great book selection lined up. This month’s “Friendship and Family” theme provides the perfect opportunity to grab your best buddy or your family member and sign up for the 9th. We look forward to seeing you soon!


Katherine Norris
Literacy Coordinator